So Much Snow!

It’s hard to believe with the ground covered in snow that gardening is even an option. Underneath the feet of snow are our hardy (hopefully!) perrenials, herbs and rhubarb resting peacefully until the snow melts & the sun beats down harder.


We’re all hibernating for a little bit longer but we will have to start plotting out our garden plots soon enough. Spring dreams, here we come!

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BIG Garden News

Fun with farm equipment

Fun with farm equipment

On the unseasonably beautiful spring weekend we enjoyed over the Eater break us Coverts* were hard at work in Lodi breaking new ground–literally–and raking and digging and planting and hauling.

We worked steadily throughout the long weekend and the record warm temperatures were both encouraging and slightly daunting: I actually got a sunburn working in the garden in April, which seems unlikely. But there’s nothing like getting your farmer tan on the go early in the season.

Here is a partial but mostly complete list of things we accomplished in the garden and grounds at the Home Farm in Lodi:

Potatoes and onions are planted, though there may be some controversy about whether this was actually the right time to plant potatoes. The mad crowd elbowing their way towards the seed potatoes at the Agway sure seemed to think it was about the right time to get them in the ground, but we shall see.

Raspberry bushes removed of dead canes and pruned back in hopes they will produce berries

Cherry tree discovered with evidence of cherry pits on the ground around it, lending one to believe it may indeed produce cherries (note to self: find out more about caring for cherry trees)

Old farm equipment uncovered, righted and turned into garden accessories

Path broken between upper and lower garden areas

Areas in front of two different barn entrances uncovered and cleared for easier access to barn

Many sumac trees felled to shed more light on old garden area in the paddock

More raspberry bushes tamed

Tops of rhubarbs discovered pushing through the ground, much to Dad’s chagrin

All new and old vegetable crops identified by wooden stakes (NEW this year!)

Perennial garden areas tidied up, weeded and dead leaves removed

Garlic tops seen to be sprouting (success! so far…)

Flagstone pathway discovered around the side of the house leading from an old doorway

Mum took some great photos of the progress we made and you can view the album here

We definitely laid all the ground work for putting the rest of the vegetables in on the long weekend in May which is the next time we’ll all be together in Lodi. Let’s just hope the weather stays lovely and that the potatoes don’t rot!

*Ok, not all of us Coverts did all this back-breaking work: Andrew and Dad wielded the pick-axes and shovels like champs, I gravitated to the detail work of clearing the dead leaves from the garden and planting while Mum picked up a chainsaw and hacked down a few trees.

Lodi by the Numbers

Lodi Historical Building

Lodi Historical Building, aka 1 of 2 de-consecrated churches

Thinking about what the different Lodis of the world might be like got me wondering how our Lodi would stack up in the statistical analysis.

Here are the cold, hard facts about Lodi, New York

Population: 1476
Number of libraries: 1
Number of post offices: 1
Number of bars: 1
Number of museums: 1
Number of ice cream shops: 2
Number of de-consecrated churches: 2
Number of active churches: 1
Number of de-consecrated churches for sale: 1
Number of wineries: 5, Kings Garden Winery, Lamoreaux Landing, Wagner Vineyards, Silver Thread Vineyard, Shalestone Vineyards
Number of gourmet restaurants: 2, Suzanne Fine Regional Cuisine, Dano’s Heuriger on Seneca
Number of craft breweries: 1.5 (Wagner Valley Brewing Company and rumour has it that a store front on Main Street of Lodi is going to be a brewery, but that rumour’s been going on for at least 2 years)
Number of empty store fronts on Main Street: 5
Number of boat slips at Lodi Point State Park: approx. 18
Number of annual bluegrass festivals: 1, Pickin’ in the Pasture
Number of Blue Moon Festival (precursor to Pickin’ in the Pasture) t-shirts my brother owns: at least 4
Cost of annual membership in the Lodi Historical Society: $10
Number of different kinds of meat on the menu of the Lodi Rod and Gun club breakfast: 3
Number of Lodi residents named Jim Covert including my Dad (until a few years ago): 3
Number of sheep, cows, horses, chickens and barn cats combined: hard to know, but my guess is that it rivals the number of humans
Number of blogs about Lodi, NY: 1

Are there any factoids I missed?

All the Lodis of the World

Lodi, California

Lodi, California

Last night while having a drink with some good friends who visited Lodi in the dog days of summer last year we developed a fabulous plan: I should visit all the Lodis of the world. Ok, fabulous may not be the right word… how about ambitious? Single-minded? Hare-brained?

Lodi is a relatively common name for U.S. towns. I once counted at least 13 in a U.S. atlas.There are Lodis peppered across the country: in New Jersey, Ohio, California. It makes you wonder if that many settlers were familiar with the Lodi in Italy that I assume is the original Lodi for which the rest are named.

I do have a bit of a head start on this project: I’ve already been to Lodi, New Jersey. Sadly I saw no more of it than the road sign on the highway as I was driving into New York City, and perhaps that was enough? I’m not sure that the part of New Jersey near New York City would be considered to exemplify the state motto as the Garden State.

On one of my Great American Road Trips of the last 8 years I’m sure I’ve been to at least one other Lodi, but I really can’t remember where. Ohio? Indiana? Wisconsin? Clearly this Lodi didn’t make a huge impression on me either.

Seeing as it’s mid-January in Ottawa, I’m happy to do some California dreaming and imagine a trip to Lodi, California, that of the famous song. Being stuck in Lodi, California might not be that bad seeing as we have another 3 months of winter ahead of us here. Sigh…

Of course the capper to this whole project would be a pilgrimage to the mothership: Lodi in Italy, where it all started. I don’t know too much about Lodi, Italy, except that obviously a lot of people left it. But the Italian Lodi is sure to be chic, fashionable and replete with delicious food around every bend, at least more so than the Lodis I’m already familiar with.

To be fair, I think I will give myself the rest of my life to accomplish this and thus avoid the pressure of a time limit. That being said, perhaps a summer road trip hitting several of the most *fabulous* Lodis is in order…

Grandma’s Cooking in the Lodi Kitchen

Now that I’m concentrating more on cooking these days I am reminded of the great food that I grew up with. My mum is an excellent cook and I have always learned a lot from her about cooking and continue to do so. But the food that your grandma cooks is always a bit special–probably a bit more indulgent because she’s cooking for her grandchildren. I have so many memories of wonderful food that Grandma cooked in the Lodi Home Farm kitchen.

Now the kitchen in the Home Farm in Lodi leaves a bit to be desired by today’s standards. There is very little counter space and the storage space is cramped and fractured. Cooking or baking in the kitchen can be frustrating when you’re used to more modern kitchens–you don’t have enough room to spread out, things can’t be found easily and if there are more of two of you in there you will knock into each other so many times you want to throw everyone out of there so you can finish cooking.

One of the features of the kitchen is the huge old fashioned enamel double sink that greets you when you come in the back door. I think this sink is the same one as was installed when the house first got running water. It’s old, it’s rusty, it’s chipped but the water runs out of the tap and drains out the bottom so at least it’s doing its job.

Grandma was a great cook. I remember so many of her delicious meals, especially her scalloped potatoes that we would often have at the holidays. Grandma almost always served a side salad with all meals, and that would often be a lettuce leaf with a dollop of cottage cheese on it topped with canned fruit–heaven!

My dad was always a big fan of my Grandma’s cake and jello–a winning combo to be sure. The cake was often a single layer of cake baked in a rectangular pan and iced on top. The jello often contained delicious items within like canned fruit, raisins or shredded carrot. The art of really great jello-making I fear is lost on the current generation. Sigh.

One of my absolute all-time Grandma faves were these special cookies that I just loved. They were chocolate cookies with white icing on top and though it’s a pretty straightforward recipe, the fact that these were cookies with ICING on them pretty much blew my little mind.

But the very best of all was that when we visited Grandma we would have cookies for breakfast. How great is that?! I’m not sure if this was a grandchildren special event or if she always had cookies for breakfast, but I’m inclined to think it was the former. Now these were definitely nutritious cookies–they had raisins and nuts in them, which makes them like muffins or something, right? I’m not sure many current nutritionists would endorse this, but I guess that’s what Grandmas are for.

What I Know About my Grandpa

My Grandpa, painting by Floyd Covert

My Grandpa, painting by Floyd Covert

Sadly I never got a chance to meet my Grandpa Covert, my Dad’s father and owner of the Home Farm in Lodi that we still have in the family today. He died a long time ago, when my Dad was 18. From what I’ve been told, he was a real character and I would have really liked him.

Because I never met him we have some collected stories that we tell and re-tell, questions that we ask and re-ask and lots of photos that we look at again and again.

Here’s what I know about my Grandpa Covert:
-he was a farmer and had several hired men that worked the farm with him
-he was in the First World War
-he walked with a crutch because of the lingering effects of an illness he had suffered as a young man
-he was named Floyd Darwin Covert, Darwin being his father’s first name: Darwin Claudius Covert (what a great name, eh?)
-my uncle Floyd, his first-born son, was named after him
-he was from Ovid originally which makes us Ovid Coverts, not Lodi Coverts (which makes perfect sense, right?)
-he and my Grandma built the cottage that my brother and now own on Lodi Point which contains materials (like windows) from the military base in Sampson that was decommissioned in the 1950s
-though my Grandma was firm in her commitment to the Temperance movement, my Grandpa… ahem.. well… didn’t have such strict beliefs, shall we say?
-he had a great sense of humour and was a real practical joker. There’s a story I remember about wrapping up a Christmas dinner guest’s scarf that she’d come in with and giving it back to her as a gift later in the evening without her realizing it.

Though I’ve never met him his presence is felt everywhere in our property in Lodi: in the house, the barns, the fields, the garage, the ancient Model A Ford in the back corner of the barn–everywhere. I wish I’d had a chance to meet him but in a way I feel like I do know him.

Farming in the Family

Grandpa Covert

Painting of my Grandpa Covert by my uncle Floyd Covert

Right now I’m reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan which is an examination of our eating habits and the industrial food chain. The book looks these issues from many different angles and looks at people who are creating food sources off the grid of the major global food chain.

Thinking about food production on family farms like some of those described in this book makes me think about my own family and history with farming. My grandfather was a farmer on the Home Farm property in Lodi that we still own. My father farmed that land when he was young as well. The land is still being farmed today by a local farmer who rents the land. As far as I can tell it is mostly crops of corn and soy–two of the industrialized monoculture crops that come under a lot of fire in this book for a number of reasons.

After our gardening experience this past summer I’m much more concerned about my place and my role in the food chain. I’ve been trying to eat locally sourced meat and vegetables when possible and have been eating a lot less meat in general.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma and other similar books decry the loss of the diversified farm and that makes me think more about what kind of farming my family would have done over the years. I remember when there were sheep on the farm, though I was really little at the time, and my dad talks about growing different kinds of crops like wheat and barley.

It’s kind of amazing to imagine that in my own family over the course of 3 generations the food chain has been radically altered such that the skills that my grandparents subsisted on are all but foreign to me and my brother and most people of my generation. I hope that over the coming months and years we can re-learn some of these life-on-the-farm skills and tactics to continue our local food mission.

I wonder if I would have made a good farmer… I dunno, I’m *really* not a morning person and I understand that comes with the, ahem, territory.

The Lodi Historical Society

Lodi Historical Society

Lodi Historical Society

The Lodi Historical Society is one of the main cultural organizations in Lodi, and does more than just the name suggests. The Lodi Historical Society aims to preserve the history of our town, but also organizes events, concerts and is the social glue of the community to a certain extent.

When I was young we would always participate in Lodi Historical Society events with my grandma, as she was heavily involved in the organization. Some of my fondest Lodi memories are of the “Dish-to-Pass” suppers in the Lodi Historical building where people would come together with their signature potluck dishes and the food and conversation would flow. My grandma would often bring a large slab cake and jello with fruit and/or vegetables in it: nectar of the gods!

The Lodi Historical Society events are a large part of their year-round activities in Lodi. Concerts by the Finger Lakes Chamber Ensemble occur a few times a year, and the annual art show and artisan show are very popular as well.

The Lodi Historical Society building is a gorgeous former church with a raised stage, seating for hundreds and a fully restored Hook Tracker Organ, as well as reception areas for more casual meetings. It’s a great venue for weddings in the heart of Finger Lakes wine country and frankly a steal at $400!

In the interest of full disclosure I should explain that my dad is the co-president of the Lodi Historical Society but I can assure you my opinions stated here are completely unbiased. And let me tell you, the perks of being the daughter of the co-president of the Lodi Historical Society are numerous… to numerous to go into here, really…

The Lodi Historical Society is a great example of a volunteer-run organization that has been around for many, many years that keeps the life of our little town going with recurring activities that are both for Lodinians as well as being a way to attract new visitors to Lodi.

To become a member of the Lodi Historical Society, visit their website to learn more.

The Great Walnut Experiment

The 150- year-old property that our home farm sits on is shaded by many lovely old trees that keep the house nice and cool and provide a gorgeous setting. One of the most prevalent trees on the property is the Black Walnut–there are several including one very big prominent one.

Raw black walnuts

Raw black walnuts

In the Fall the black walnut drops its seed pods in an attempt to proliferate. This strategy has clearly worked well for the walnut over the years, but it doesn’t work as well for the humans that co-habitate with these stately trees. The seed pods are large tennis-ball like things that drop from the sky at quite a velocity and pose a threat both from above and below: watch out you don’t get beaned by one of these things and watch you don’t turn over your ankle stepping on one of these things.

In the midst of trying to manage our safety around these dangerous things I had a thought: but wait! These are actual walnuts! Why don’t we try to harvest them and eat them? This is a potential goldmine!

So, I set about collecting as many decent looking and not-too-rotten walnuts as I could gather. Stoop labour: not super fun, but then as I was soon to discover, just about everything in this Great Walnut Experiment was hard labour.

I collected intelligence from folks in Lodi about what the heck to do with walnuts and one theme consistently emerged: drive over them. Yup. These suckers are so hard that you can DRIVE OVER THEM. And that’s just to get the outer skin off.

And a caveat: as every source I consulted confirmed, handling the nuts in any way will stain your hands for weeks. I can attest to the veracity of this statement and would add for posterity: even through gloves.

So while our friend Linda kindly obliged by backing over my crop of walnuts a few times I tried to determine the next steps. According to my dad, my grandma used to dry the nuts in the basement on an old screen door all winter. The ancient copy of the Rodale Organic Gardening handbook that I picked up at the Ithaca Book Sale said to dry them for a week and then roast them in a low over for one day. Given my lack of attention span, I chose this method and set about drying the nuts on every possible flat surface in my apartment once back in Ottawa.

Black Walnut

Black Walnut

After several hours in the oven I decided it was time for a taste test. Several violent hammer strikes later and with some diligent digging I was able to pry enough of the nut meat to consider this whole back-breaking experiment a success.

The all-important question of the flavour? It’s a strong and hearty nuttiness with none of the bitterness I was worried about. And the taste instantly transports me to my childhood and the raisin cookies my grandma used to make which she must have flavoured with these nuts that she harvested every year.

Ok, so, anyone want some? Seriously. I’m too exhausted to keep hacking at these suckers.

On being far from home…

I’ve been missing Lodi the last few weeks after an intense spring and summer of work on the garden, the properties and of course visiting with friends and family. Now that I’m back into the city swing of things I feel far from the comfort of Lodi and the feelings of home.

I’ve never lived in Lodi though I consider it my home town as much as my real hometown, St. John’s Newfoundland where I was born and raised and Ottawa, my current home base. It’s a bit odd, but I guess in this scenario I’m always away from my Lodi home, which does make me feel nostalgic and wistful.

a Ford Fiesta like we used to have

a Ford Fiesta like we used to have

When I was little and for many years we used to drive from St. John’s to Lodi. Yes, drive. If you’re wondering what that was like, let me paint you a picture: a family of four + enough supplies for 2 summer months activities + a 1980s-era Ford fiesta (canary yellow). I know you’re picturing an overstuffed roof rack as well, and piles of baggage piled between the two children so they couldn’t possibly whack each other. Oh, and take that mental picture and stretch it over four travel days. Four days. Four people. Two ferries. One Ford Fiesta.

The Ambrose Shea

The Ambrose Shea

I remember loving those trips, though I’m sure I was miserable at some point if not for the entire four days. But certainly the highlights were the two ferry rides we had to take: one to get from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia which took 18 hours in those days. The other ferry took us from Nova Scotia to Maine and then we were in the home stretch. We used to take the sturdy and dependable Ambrose Shea to take us across the tumultuous Atlantic. The ferry was not glamourous but I loved it nonetheless. There was shuffleboard on the upper deck, James Bond movies in high rotation and a cafeteria that feautured endless combinations of things that could be smothered in gravy.

All of this travelling made the arrival in Lodi all the more sweet. We loved getting there but we loved being in Lodi for the whole summer much more. I’m much closer to Lodi now, only about 4.5 hours from Ottawa, but it still feels like a slog to get there. That feeling of arrival remains as sweet as ever.

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